Putting all the pieces together

It’s exciting that Sustrans, one of Britain's major cycle advocacy groups, has come out in support of the network approach to cycling in the capital, through their Connect London campaign.

The major benefit of a city-wide network of quieter, backstreet cycle routes is obvious. All Londoners would reliably be able to cycle from A to B on safer, more pleasant streets, thus removing the main barrier to cycling: fear.

Of course, we already have such a network: the London Cycle Network. But, despite thirty years of development, it is unfinished. In effect, Sustrans are proposing to finish the job.

Sustrans have sensibly pointed out that the network approach is consistent with the London Cycling Campaign’s call for better facilities on London’s major roads and junctions; indeed, a network would complement such facilities, by making them more useful, as part of a city-wide infrastructure. (Moreover, the LCC was originally founded upon a commitment to a network, and a few years ago campaigned directly for a ‘Bike Grid’ before changing emphasis.)

At this stage, there are a few details missing from the Sustrans proposals. They could do worse than checking out Cycle Lifestyle’s 100 Reasons for a London Cycle Map for a few suggestions.

Some aspects of the Sustrans campaign are especially underdeveloped, but especially important. For instance, there isn't much detail about how the network will be mapped. The squiggly map provided in the Connect London report barely differs from the inadequate London Cycle Network map already in existence.

Sustrans Connect London map (a slightly different version can also be seen here):

London Cycle Network map (an online LCN map can also be seen here):

Nor is there any detail about how Sustrans envisages the network to be signed. The main objective of a network is to provide continuous, safe cycle routes, and so the main determinant of the success of the network is going to be how easy it is to follow those routes. This consideration is especially important when Sustrans are aiming for a network that will support cross-city journeys as well as local journeys.

Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map fills in the gaps in the Sustrans proposals.

He has invented an ingenious and beautiful way to map London’s current cycle network (with a few extra routes included) – by representing the network as a serious of long straight coloured routes connecting any two areas of the capital.

In turn, Parker’s map suggests how to sign the routes on the London Cycle Network: with coloured road markings and signs corresponding to the coloured routes on the map. Following the routes on Parker’s map would be as easy as navigating on the Tube – in both cases, by remembering a few coloured routes and where to change from one to the other.

Finally, Parker’s map suggests how to reconcile local journeys with longer journeys on the London Cycle Network. His map defines cycling motorways, as it were, that connect the capital at a macro level. But these motorways would also need to be fully integrated with borough level – micro level – cycle facilities. To achieve this, every junction on Parker’s network would display not just a London Cycle Map but a detailed local map showing how Parker’s routes connect with the local cycle network.

In order for Sustrans to succeed in finishing the London Cycle Network, then above all they will need to solve the problems that Parker’s map has solved – the problems left unsolved by the original London Cycle Network. Yes, the solutions are subtle. But they provide the innovations that Sustrans will need if their Connect London proposal is to be genuinely groundbreaking. We would love to work with Sustrans to help deliver the cycle network the capital deserves.


The lack of detail in the

The lack of detail in the Connect London proposal is astonishing. A real cut-and-paste job! It is remarkable only for the fact that a major cycle advocacy group is promoting a joined-up approach. But where is the detail? Why does their proposal leave you with more questions than answers?

The five main requirements for bicycle-friendly infrastructures, as identified by the Dutch National Information and Technology Platform for Transport, Infrastructure and Public Space (CROW), are:

1. Improved traffic safety;
2. Directness: short, fast routes from origin to destination;
3. Comfort: good surfaces, generous space and little hindrance from other road users;
4. Attractiveness: a pleasant, socially safe environment, without smell or noise nuisance;
5. Cohesion: logical, cohesive routes.

Even if it is not possible to apply these principles all at once, it is not certain that the Sustrans proposal has taken regard of any of them! All they seem to have done is choose a random selection of routes, and put them together in a format which is very difficult to read.

I am surprised that you have so willingly declared your preparedness to work with them. They don't add anything at all to your proposal.

H.P., I am inclined to agree.

H.P., I am inclined to agree. The whole thing is just so incredibly fuzzy.

In the promotional video, Sustrans London Director, German Dector-Vega, says: "Cycle routes are proven to make cycling safer [...] but in London, there are still too many gaps in the network."

If cycle routes are proven to make cycling safer, then the more cycle routes there are, the safer cycling would become. Right? So why stop at a network of just 1000km? The original LCN was something like 3000km in length.

A female voice-over at the end of the video says: "If I could go everywhere in London on a cycle route, that would be brilliant. I wouldn't think about it: just get straight on my bike, go from A to B, and it would just be no question in my mind whatsoever."

To be fair they do accept

To be fair they do accept that :

"We know there are quiet roads all over London, but many end with a busy junction, a difficult to cross road, or a park where cycling is banned."

Signing is important BUT a fair bit of engineering will be needed to connect the quiet roads - and keep them quiet.

The Sustrans video kicks off

The Sustrans video kicks off with a female voice-over:

"I really like cycling. I just really struggle to find a good route that fits in with my routine. I take my daughter Charlotte to school in the morning, along a route that I know really well: it's about a ten minute cycle. I'd really like to cycle to work but there's a big junction in the way. It's much easier to go home, drop my bike off, and get back on the Tube."

Where is this lady going to and from? What route do Sustrans propose that she takes? Which is the junction that stands in her way? How much would it cost to transform it, and how long would it take for this work to be done? Where is the detail?

@ Paul

@ Paul

"We know that there are quiet roads all over London ..." Indeed, but do we know how they join up to each other?

We could spend a whole load of money treating these routes, but unless they are effectively waymarked - unless non-locals can access them - what precisely would be the point?

As you indicate, signing is important, and so of course is engineering. But signing routes does not need planning permission, whereas engineering does. Therefore, would it not be possible to sign the routes first, and then set about treating them? What would be the benefit to existing cyclists in not pursuing this approach?

It's a shame that Sustrans

It's a shame that Sustrans did not have the good grace to approach you, and to suggest ways in which their ideas could enhance your work - which I am sure, given the chance, they would be able to do very well - rather than trying to pull the rug from underneath your feet, which I am guessing is how it must feel to you.

If anyone still doubts the prudence of introducing the network by doing as much as possible at least bureaucracy first - that is, by making one-way streets available to two-way cycle traffic, by removing restrictions or other barriers on certain routes, by laying down repeat markers on the road surface, etc - please could I encourage you to check out Jemma's latest blog at Help! My Chain Came Off.

In particular, take note of Jemma's second nifty move, Primary love:

"If you're not with the cycling lingo then don't worry, riding in primary pretty much means get yourself in the centre of the lane and stick to your guns. Great for narrow roads where it would be dangerous to let a driver overtake you because of lack of space, and it's particularly useful to avoid being floored by someone opening a car door on you.

"I've been rocking the primary move on many of the back roads on my commute. This move is perfect partnered with the 'don't even try it' or 'I'm just here' stare."

Route confirmation markers, laid down on the road surface, would help to reinforce the cyclists' right to occupy the primary position where space is limited, and is just one of those many little things which, added together, would help to make cycling in London safer.

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